Activist does not deny over-invoicing but asks since when did saving become a crime
A non-profit organisation in Mumbai has accused Team Anna member Kiran Bedi of claiming travel expenses far in excess of what she actually incurred to attend a programme organised by them in 2009.
George Abraham, general secretary of the Aviation Industry Employees Guild, said his organisation had invited Ms. Bedi to be chief guest for an International Women's Day function in Mumbai in March 2009 and that she had accepted the invitation.
But she over-invoiced the Guild for her travel expenses, Mr. Abraham told The Hindu on Monday. He added that his organisation realised they had been given a false invoice only after The Indian Express published a story accusing Ms. Bedi of discrepancies in her travel accounts.
Asked by The Hindu for a response, Ms. Bedi — who in the past has said that that all money raised this way was for her NGO — did not deny the over-invoicing. But she questioned the motives of the Guild in raising the issue and asked, “Since when did saving become a crime?”
According to Mr. Abraham, her travel agent, Flywell, had sent the Guild an invoice for Rs. 31,578 for a return ticket to Delhi by Indian Airlines. The travel was by executive class and the Guild sent a cheque for that amount.
However after The Indian Express news story, the Guild checked its old records and found a message giving the travel details of Ms. Bedi for that trip. A message they found in the files said she was arriving by a Jet airways flight from Pune.
According to media reports, the owner of Flywell, Anil Bal, is a co-trustee of Ms. Bedi's NGO, India Vision Foundation.
Mr. Abraham said that Ms. Bedi attended another function at an educational institute in Mumbai the same day and added that there is every reason to suspect she may have charged them for her travel as well. “There is an element of dishonesty for a person of her status”, he said.
In response to these allegations, Ms. Bedi sent a series of SMSes to The Hindu. “Very stupid sir,” her first message said. “Can't understand this nonsense. Did they invite me or did I get invited? And if they offered me this and I saved for a cause, so what is their problem! Was the invite conditional? After much persuasion, I go and they say a 1000 thanks. Remarkable.”
In subsequent SMSes, Ms. Bedi said: “How is this relevant? It was an offer by them and I did a favour by going to them free, not charging even a speaker fee. Ask them, did I ask for invite or they invited me? And whose behest are they talking of?...Whose interest is this nonsense going on?...Team Anna is becoming stronger by this I can tell you. Come what may, we have to get the Jan Lok Pal Bill...Since when did saving become a crime?"